… John Newman and Craig Morley

There is some spring excitement in the air as days become noticeably longer and a little warmth is appearing. Birdlife seems to be exploding on the Bellarine Peninsula inextricably linked to the increasing numbers of flowers blooming and in turn insect numbers. It is a great time to be birding around Geelong.

Looking through the September bird records submitted over late August and September, it is interesting to note that while we are receiving good numbers of records of Australian Magpies breeding, there are records of flocks of at least 30, presumably non-breeding, birds.  These are important records to continue submitting, easily overlooked as ‘just magpies’. It has been a little easier to get into the forest at night in recent weeks with more moderate temperatures but with darkness falling at a reasonably early hour. Observers were repaid for their efforts with calling Australian Owlet-nightjars at Ironbark Basin and a Powerful Owl at Gum Flat.

There have been numerous records submitted again this month of Black-shouldered Kites, many juvenile birds, showing that when conditions are good they will breed over autumn and winter and utilise many locations. As with flocking Australian Magpies, it is always very interesting to note when Black-shouldered Kites are not present in our region, as happens periodically, so please keep the records coming in whenever you come across these wonderful birds of prey.

Cape Barren Geese south of Serendip Sanctuary, at Lara, are always of interest and watching and recording the range of these local birds over time is worthy of observer effort. Cattle Egrets in breeding plumage in Corio were a treat and several other small local flocks during September similarly satisfying. There appear to have been significantly smaller flocks this year compared to high numbers heading up towards 100 birds in recent years. So please keep your eyes out and submit those records.

Anglesea Heath is one of the true ecological gems of Victoria and spring here is a treasure trove of flora and flora with hard-to-find bird species being more vocal and often singing from exposed perches. Chestnut-rumped Heath-wrens and Olive Whistlers are several of these species seen here during September as well as many cuckoos and Olive-backed Oriole. The September bird records highlight the return of expected spring migrants – Fairy Martins, Dusky Woodswallows and a trickle of White-naped Honeyeaters and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters back to the wetter foothills and taller forests after a winter somewhere to our north.

Migratory shorebirds are being seen again – Latham’s Snipe at a few locations, with a significant number of 49 at Lake Ayrey, a Sanderling at Blue Rocks and a Great Knot at Lorne are the highlights amongst the international visitors but we must mention a flock of 40,000 Banded Stilts which greeted two keen and delighted observers who were at Lake Murdeduke to test water quality. It is certainly agreeable to these magnificent endemic Australian shorebirds! And the Great Knot was sharing the rock platform, at Lorne, with a regional important group of 11 Sooty Oystercatchers.

Spring is a story of breeding for many species and September records around Geelong have many wonderful observations of this. Little Wattlebirds with fledglings at Ocean Grove is about as far to the east as our breeding records go and a Grey Fantail building its exquisite wine-glass nest, near Point Lonsdale, captivated the observer. Some members of this species still appears to be moving about after a winter where at least some of the population have moved to different locations and some Tasmania bird of the albiscapa subspecies have crossed Bass Strait to winter here.

It is with great excitement that two Square-tailed Kites, a locally rare species, have been sighted at Bannockburn and Ocean Grove during September. Photos of the birds and sightings on the same day clearly indicate there are at least two of these evocative birds of prey currently in our region.

Ocean Grove Nature Reserve: https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S74060302

Bannockburn Reserve: https://ebird.org/australia/checklist/S74516680

They can range over a wide area as they search the treetops to take unsuspecting nestlings. Ravens, Currawongs, Magpies and larger honeyeaters give the kite no rest so tune in to cacophony of these species and you might find ‘your own’ Square-tailed Kite in another part of our region!

Also at Ocean Grove, critically endangered Swift Parrots continue to be seen, in low numbers, prior to their return to Tasmania to look for suitable forest in which to breed.

Good detective work at Bannockburn allowed observers to notice two birds making the tell-tale platelets, small circular areas of cleared ground indicative of Painted Buttonquail foraging where they rotate on the spot clearing away leaf litter to expose food.  Also out in the drier plains a huge flock of 250 Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos was most noteworthy in the Cargerie district.

We have recently re-jigged the Bird News section of our GFNC web-site and intend to post these monthly bird notes from December 2017 onwards at https://www.gfnc.org.au/news/bird-news

Thanks again to the keen observers, almost 60 in the last month and too numerous to mention, who so willingly and keenly submit their observations to the GFNC web-site https://www.gfnc.org.au/observations/bird-observations and directly, as complete lists or incidentals, to eBird https://ebird.org/australia/home and if you’d like to explore and search Species maps – remember to log in to eBird.